The exhibition Correspondage – a title inspired by the names Jiří Kolář devised for his art techniques (rollage, prollage, froissage...) – present a never-before-displayed set of the artist’s collages. Every day between the summer of 1986 and autumn of 1987, he prepared and sent one to the 20-year-old French woman Béatrice Bizot in return for daily letters, “which faithfully reflected her life”.
Jiří Kolář emigrated to France from Czechoslovakia in 1980. He met Béatrice in Etretat, Normandy, in late summer 1986. When she told him of her wish to become a journalist, he mentioned the great writing progress made by his wife Běla as she wrote him letters every day during their forced separation in the first years of his exile. In an effort to encourage and motivate Béatrice, he suggested she write him a letter (or at least a brief message) every day, in return for which he would send her a daily collage done especially for her. He even confirmed the deal in an agreement stipulating clear rules for the correspondence “between the very young woman and the very old man”. Thus was this set of almost 400 collages born. The exhibition presents a large selection accompanied by selected letters from Béatrice Bizot to Kolář.
In addition to this original postal exchange between the two protagonists, however, Correspondage reflects the echoes of their correspondence in their work and the dialogue in which the artworks engaged. Béatrice became not a journalist, but a sculptor, and an interplay of analogies and poeticism reminiscent of Kolář can be discerned in her work.
On a more general level, Correspondage is a tribute to Kolář’s exceptional personality as an “animator”, always ready to rouse the creative potential in young people and follow its development, and to help established artists overcome crises. He insisted they proceed with systematic regularity to prevent them from stagnating or compromising their goals. Similarly as with Béatrice, Kolář provided psychological support to all of them, but with his typical generosity he also gave them material gifts in the form of his artworks.
He showed the same generosity when the Society of Friends of the National Gallery in Prague was founded. Kolář was its first patron. This exhibition also commemorates the 20th anniversary of the organization’s existence.